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MANSFIELD — Continued fiscal recovery by the City of Mansfield through 2016 hinges on voters supporting a 0.25 percent income tax for safety forces, city officials were told Monday.
Laura Brown of the State Auditor’s office told the commission overseeing Mansfield’s journey out of fiscal emergency that the revised recovery plan Mayor Tim Theaker’s administration turned in includes several measures. But her projections for two city funds which have been problematic showed bottom lines will be stressed if the city can’t raise additional revenue for police and fire services.
Without an additional 0.25 percent in Mansfield’s income tax rate, deficits in the safety fund — at negative $1.1 million at the end of 2011, would begin to grow larger starting at $1.1 million for 2012, then $1.5 million, $1.9 million, $2.4 million, and finally $2.9 million from years 2013 through 2016, she said.
If city voters approve an additional quarter percent earmarked for safety, that would generate $3,301,885 starting in 2013, Brown said.
The mayor’s revised recovery plan was unanimously approved by the commission Monday.
Along with a proposal to raise the income tax by a quarter-percent, it includes two other proposed revenue streams designed to help balance the safety fund. Use of a speed camera in a police vehicle could generate $170,000 yearly. Reducing Mansfield’s resident income tax credit from 1 percent to 0.5 percent, allowing the city to collect an additional $289,481 annually.
“The other ideas have been wonderful. But the real linchpin to the whole thing is that quarter percent,” Brown said. “With the additional safety tax, safety would be OK, because it would have its own dedicated source of money.”
If infusions from all three revenue sources are put in place, the safety fund would have a $1.07 million deficit at the end of 2012. But Mansfield would see positive cash balances afterward, climbing year by year. The positive balance would start at $2.29 million in 2013, increasing to $5.3 million for 2014, $7.1 million for 2015 and finally $8.9 million for 2016.
To put a safety tax increase before voters this November, city council would have to act by July.
Robert Boyd, a member of the fiscal planning and supervision commission, said the city appeared to have “a cushion” of more than one crack at a ballot issue, since collection would not benefit the city until 2013.
“That’s a very precarious cushion, though,” commission chairwoman Sharon Hanrahan noted.
The state auditor’s office also provided projections for the general fund, and how it would be affected by eight measures included in the revised recovery plan. With no changes to the old plan, Mansfield would go from a $2.08 million positive balance in the general fund at the end of this year, to negative balances by 2014, ending 2016 with a $3.7 million deficit, Brown said.
Under the revised plan, the general fund would show positive balances this year and 2013, and zero balances for the next year, Brown said.
Municipal Court Judge Frank Ardis, attending the commission meeting, took the mayor to task for comments made in recent weeks as he discussed reasons why the recovery plan needed to be revised. Theaker told the commission April 24 he was reviewing the impact to Mansfield’s budget that raises given or planned for 2012 by the court, clerk of court and law director’s office would have.
Raises figured into the court budget have been accompanied by cuts elsewhere, for “zero cost factor,” Ardis said.
“The courts have always attempted to work together with council and the administration in this fiscal emergency plan,” the judge said. “It looks like the judiciary is being used as the whipping boy for this,” he said. “I don’t appreciate the mayor or council taking that position.”
Afterward, Brown told local officials the state auditor’s office can conduct an analysis which would show whether a particular budgetary change is cost-neutral.
After the meeting, she told a reporter that would have to be done at the request of the commission.